2 Timothy 1:1-2,8-18
Paul’s second letter to his spiritual son Timothy, written from Rome near his execution under the Emperor Nero in around 67 AD.
Paul exhorts his son Timothy to not be ashamed of all that he (Paul) has suffered in the name of the Gospel, but rather to share in his sufferings with him; to observe all that he has suffered for the name of Christ and to share that with others that it might serve for necessary edification of those others who are suffering for the name of Christ. To share it with others that they might look to the example of steadfastness that Paul represents to the faithful. But, he also takes a moment to remind Timothy that while walking in the faith does require necessary works, our salvation and calling are not based on the merits of our works, but rather on the grace and love of mankind of Christ. This is such an inspiring message to his young son Timothy, and to all believers, because it’s so easy to become despondent the moment we fall back into sin.
We must remember that, while we are called to overcome the passions and overcome sinfulness, which requires conscious willingness to do so, it is only through the grace and love of Christ that we could ever fully do so. It’s so important to remember this fact, if you fall into sin and become angry or despondent and follow with the resolve to “never do that again,” your heart is not where it needs to be. Rather than trusting in God’s grace, you are trusting in your own will, and even if you were to overcome that sin, you would merely replace it with another far worse sin, which is pride. Rather, you should fill your heart with the grace and love of Christ and then all of those sins will slowly lose their power over you, unnoticed. I have a friend who is a true inspiration to me who overcame alcoholism, and he did so not by “resolving never to drink again,” nor even tracking his “days clean,” but instead by resolving to keep his daily prayer rule, and in so doing has been sober now for years, never missing a day of prayer.
And it is through this love that Jesus “abolished death and brought immortality to light through the Gospel.” Jesus Himself submitted to suffering death, “even death on the cross,” so that He might break the power of death. And it’s truly imperative that we understand that fact. It was through His willingness to take on our flesh and suffer as we suffer that He overthrew the power of death in our lives, that He removed it’s sting. And Paul here, through his willingness to suffer, is imitating Christ, and he beckons us likewise to be willing to do the same. “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ,” (1 Corinthians 11:1) he exhorts us, remembering that “the Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force” (Matthew 11:12) and that even the apostles glorified that they were “counted worthy to suffer for the Gospel.” (Acts 5:41).
The Christian walk is one of joy and contentment, but it is not joy and contentment brought about by earthly comfort. Rather, it is because instead of earthly comfort, we seek the joy of eternal comfort. Jesus Himself teaches us that “blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you for My name’s sake, for great is your reward in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:11).
Make no mistake, my brethern. I am not saying that we should ever strive for this suffering. We must never seek to offend and we must never strive for suffering, however, we also must never flee from it or fear it. Suffering and persecution will come to us as the Lord permits. However, looking to Paul as our example, we must remain steadfast in the faith, regardless of our consequences. Paul never went out of his way to find suffering, to cause discord, to create strife; but likewise, he never allowed the possibility of any of these things to prevent him from speaking the truth and upholding the traditions of the faith. Here in the West, we are constantly being faced with decision that may or may not affect our lives, and we must always cling to the traditions of the Church when faced with these decisions. We must never go out of our way to create this hostile environment, but likewise, we must never flee in the face of it. Rather, we must take St Paul as our example and not allow the dictates of the world to cause us to fear the repercussions of speaking the truth.
Christ is in our midst.